Yosemite Sam
Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies character
Yosemite Sam.svg
First appearanceHare Trigger (1945)
Created byFriz Freleng
Voiced by
In-universe information
SpeciesHuman
GenderMale
OccupationOutlaw(commonly), cowboy, sailor, gunslinger, pirate, and many others

Yosemite Sam is a cartoon character in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of short films produced by Warner Bros. His name is taken from Yosemite National Park. He is an adversary of Bugs Bunny.[1] He is commonly depicted as an extremely aggressive, gunslinging outlaw or cowboy with a hair-trigger temper and an intense hatred of rabbits, Bugs in particular. In cartoons with non-Western themes, he uses various aliases, including "Chilkoot Sam" (named for the Chilkoot Trail; Sam pronounces it "Chilli-koot") and "Square-deal Sam" in 14 Carrot Rabbit, "Riff Raff Sam" in Sahara Hare, "Sam Schultz" in Big House Bunny, "Seagoin' Sam" in Buccaneer Bunny, "Shanghai Sam" in Mutiny on the Bunny, "Von Schamm the Hessian" in Bunker Hill Bunny, "Baron Sam von Schpamm" in Dumb Patrol, and many others. During the golden age of American animation, Yosemite Sam appeared in 33 shorts made between 1945 and 1964.[2]

History

Further information: List of Yosemite Sam cartoons

Animator Friz Freleng introduced the character in the 1945 cartoon Hare Trigger. With his grumpy demeanor, fiery temper, strident voice, and short stature (in two early gags in Hare Trigger, a train he is attempting to rob passes right over top of him and he has to use a set of portable stairs to get on his horse; in Bugs Bunny Rides Again, he rides a miniature horse), along with his fiery red hair, Sam was in some ways a caricature of Freleng. While he often denied any intentional resemblance, in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, surviving members of his production crew assert, and the late director's daughter acknowledges, that Sam definitely was inspired by Freleng. Freleng himself even said in an interview with the Associated Press that "I have the same temperament, I'm small, and I used to have a red mustache."[3] Other influences were the Red Skelton character Sheriff Deadeye and the Tex Avery cartoon Dangerous Dan McFoo. When he does a "slow burn" and cries "Oooooh!" he borrows a bit from such comedic character actors as Jimmy Finlayson (a frequent foil to Laurel and Hardy) and Frank Nelson (one of Mel Blanc's costars on The Jack Benny Program). Freleng also cited the Terrible-Tempered Mr. Bang, a character in the Toonerville Trolley comic strip, as an influence. In his memoir Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist, Chuck Jones says that a great-uncle who occasionally visited his family was a retired Texas Ranger who was short, had red hair, a large mustache, and a hair-trigger temper (but no beard, unlike Sam). Michael Maltese originally considered calling the character Texas Tiny, Wyoming Willie, or Denver Dan, but then settled on the final name.

Yosemite Sam as mascot of the 20th Intelligence Squadron
Yosemite Sam as mascot of the 20th Intelligence Squadron

Other characters with Sam-like features appear in several Looney Tunes shorts. The Bugs Bunny entry Super-Rabbit (1943) features the cowboy character "Cottontail Smith", whose voice is similar to Sam's. Stage Door Cartoon (1944), however, features a southern sheriff character that looks and sounds similar to Sam, except for a more defined Southern stereotype to his voice. In a Daffy Duck cartoon called Along Came Daffy (1947), Daffy has to contend with two Yosemite Sams, one with Sam's red hair and one with black hair. Finally, Pancho's Hideaway (1964) features a Mexican villain who is designed much like Sam but has a different accent. In addition, in the 1949 Chuck Jones-directed cartoon Mississippi Hare, Bugs Bunny battles with an old, pistol-toting gambler called Colonel Shuffle, one whose role could have easily been portrayed by Sam. (The Colonel reappears in "Dog Gone South", this time pitted against Charlie Dog, and accompanied by a bulldog named Belvedere, who resembles Hector the Bulldog).[4]

Freleng created Yosemite Sam to be a more worthy adversary for Bugs Bunny. Until then, Bugs's major foe had been Elmer Fudd, a man so mild-mannered and good-natured that Freleng thought Bugs actually came off as a bully by duping him. Sam, on the other hand, was extremely violent and belligerent, not at all a pushover like Fudd. Freleng compacted into a tiny body and 11-gallon hat the largest voice and the largest ego "north, south, east, aaaaand west of the Pecos".[5]

For over 19 years, except for one cartoon (Hare-Abian Nights in 1959) Freleng's unit had exclusive usage of Sam at the Warner studio. Though officially a cowboy, Freleng put Sam in a different costume in almost every film: a knight, a Roman legionary, a pirate, a royal cook, a prison guard, a duke (Duke of Yosemite, no less), a Hessian mercenary, a Confederate soldier, a mountain climber (climbing the 'Shmadderhorn' mountain in Switzerland), a hen-pecked house husband and even a space alien. The humor of the cartoons inevitably springs from the odd miscasting of the hot-tempered cowboy. However, some countries seem to prefer his pirate incarnation, as "Sam the Pirate" is his official name in France[6] and a frequent alternative name in Italy.

While Sam's basic character is that of a cowboy, he usually wears a black Domino mask (or just a wide black outline on the outer sides of his eyes) to show that he is an outlaw. This is so associated with his persona that he wears the mask even when dressed as a duke, a riff, a pirate, or a Viking.

Sam is significantly tougher and more aggressive than Elmer Fudd when challenging Bugs Bunny. He is also quicker to learn from his mistakes and never falls for the same ploy twice. But despite Sam's bluster, he does not prove much brighter than Elmer in his encounters with Bugs. His noise contrasts to the calmly cocky rabbit. Sam's own cockiness always gets the best of him; Bugs can see he is incapable of turning down a challenge. Every time Bugs dares Sam to "step across that line", he cannot help but do so, even if he steps off into empty space or down a mine shaft.

Yosemite Sam was depicted without six-gun pistols in Looney Tunes Cartoons on the streaming service, HBO Max. The series' executive producer and showrunner, Peter Browngardt, said the character could still continue to use cartoon violence, such as dynamite and Acme-related paraphernalia.[7] However, this change appears to have been reversed, as he is once again depicted using his pistols in Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021).[8]

Personality

Yosemite Sam is one of Bugs's toughest antagonists, proudly calling himself the meanest, toughest hombre in the West. Yosemite Sam is a character more aggressive than Bugs's other regular antagonist, Elmer Fudd, given that Sam has a tougher accent, a higher, fiercer voice, and a more violent spirit, although he is portrayed as a bumbling fool in most of his appearances. Yosemite Sam has had several occupations in his life that Bugs has gotten in the way of. Among his occupations are:

Later years

Yosemite Sam made appearances in several television specials in the 1970s and 1980s, and in three of the Looney Tunes feature-film compilations. Sam was the star of his own comic book series from 1970 to 1984, for a total of 81 issues. Published by Gold Key / Whitman Comics, the official title of the series was Yosemite Sam and Bugs Bunny.[9][10] Yosemite Sam was the main basis for the character of The Grump from DePatie-Freleng Enterprises's TV series Here Comes the Grump. The Grump's dragon was similar to Sam's in Knighty Knight Bugs, right down to the fiery nasal explosions upon its master. He also made a cameo appearance in Disney/Amblin's Who Framed Roger Rabbit, where he is blasted out of Toontown. In the film, he is the only Looney Tunes character to not be voiced by Mel Blanc, with Joe Alaskey taking the role.[11]

Yosemite Sam was one of the classic Looney Tunes characters who appeared as faculty members of Acme Looniversity in the 1990s animated series Tiny Toon Adventures. Sam was shown teaching classes in Firearms and Anvilology (the study of falling anvils, a staple joke in the Looney Tunes genre), and was sometimes portrayed as the school principal (though at least one episode identified Bugs Bunny as the principal, and Wile E. Coyote was Dean of Acme Loo). As with all the main Looney Tunes characters, Sam had a student counterpart at Acme Loo in Montana Max. In "K-Acme TV", Yosemite Sam was seen as the judge of "Toon Court" (a parody of The People's Court) where he proceeded over a trial where Calamity Coyote issues a complaint against the ACME Corporation for negligence and faulty workmanship. The ACME Corporation's representative Bobbo ACME claims that the devices made by the ACME Corporation work if they are used right as he demonstrates the catapult on Calamity Coyote. Judge Yosemite Sam finds in favor of the ACME Corporation. In the same episode, Yosemite Sam appeared as a prospector in a documentary detailing about the sightings of a furry creature called Bigbutt (a spoof of Bigfoot).

Yosemite Sam also appeared along with Bugs Bunny in a number of Mirinda commercials in early 90s, most probably due to direct competition to Fanta, being advertised with Disney characters at that time.

He also appears in the movie Space Jam as a player for the Tune Squad. In a memorable scene, he and Elmer Fudd shoot off the teeth of one of the Monstars while clad in Pulp Fiction-esque attire, complete with Dick Dale's "Misirlou" playing. In an earlier scene, when the Nerdlucks hold all the toons hostage, he confronts the Nerdlucks, pointing his pistols at them, and orders them to release all the toons ... only to have the lead Nerdluck fire a laser pistol back at him, which leaves Sam smoldering naked and beardless as the phasers burned off his mustache.

Sam also appeared in The Warners 65th Anniversary Special and two episodes of 1995's The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries.

In the 2003 movie Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Yosemite Sam is a bounty hunter employed by the Acme Corporation who was hired to finish off DJ Drake and Daffy Duck. In this film, he owns a casino in Las Vegas, which he calls Yosemite Sam's Wooden Nickel, and is accompanied by Nasty Canasta and Cottontail Smith from Super-Rabbit (who may be originally employed as his security guards). He goes as far as betting a large sack of money to get the card, stealing Jeff Gordon's car, and even using a stick of Dynamite to beat DJ and Daffy.

In 2004, a possible numbers station in Albuquerque using the character's voice began transmitting, taking a piece of audio from the 1950 Merrie Melodies cartoon Bunker Hill Bunny, days after it was discovered and its location was tracked, the station ceased broadcasting but returned for a short time again in 2005, but hasn't been heard since. This was referred to as the Yosemite Sam transmission. This was also believed to have a reference to the Bugs Bunny quote "I knew I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque."

Sam also plays the role of minor villain K'Chutha Sa'am (a parody of the Klingon) in the Duck Dodgers animated TV series.

He also appears in the video games Loons: The Fight for Fame, Taz: Wanted, Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle, The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 2, Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 3, The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout, Bugs Bunny: Rabbit Rampage, Bugs Bunny in Double Trouble, Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time, Bugs Bunny and Taz: Time Busters, Sheep, Dog, 'n' Wolf, Looney Tunes B-Ball, Daffy Duck in Hollywood and the Looney Tunes: Back in Action video game. In Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal, Yosemite Sam makes an appearance riding a railway cart on the Wild West level.

Yosemite Sam appears in multiple episodes of The Looney Tunes Show, voiced by Maurice LaMarche. Sam is depicted as being well meaning, but suffering anger problems. He first appeared in the show in three Merrie Melodies segments called "Blow My Stack", "Moostache" and "Stick to My Guns". Yosemite Sam is one of Bugs and Daffy's neighbors. In the episode "Daffy Duck, Esq.", it is revealed that his full name is Samuel Rosenbaum and thus established him as being Jewish (both his creator Friz Freleng and original voice actor Mel Blanc were also Jewish, though there is no evidence that Freleng had ever explicitly intended Sam to have been a Jew).[12] In "Ridiculous Journey", it is revealed that Yosemite Sam has a cousin in Blacque Jacque Shellacque who Yosemite Sam enlisted to recover Sylvester, Tweety, and Tasmanian Devil after they were accidentally shipped to Alaska. It was through Yosemite Sam that Bugs Bunny and Granny enlisted Blacque Jacque Shellacque's help. In "You've Got Hate Mail" after accidentally being sent an angry email by Daffy, Sam decides to change his ways and proceeds to shave, sell his cowboy clothes, and become a normal suburbanite. However, after a particularly annoying book club meeting, he reverts to his old ways.

Yosemite Sam appears in the 2015 DTV movie Looney Tunes: Rabbits Run voiced by Maurice LaMarche. He appears in New Looney Tunes (originally Wabbit) voiced by Maurice LaMarche in season one and by Fred Tatasciore in season two. His appearance has him depicted to having a larger moustache and a fat body. Yosemite Sam is often shown trying to commit crimes or obtain items where Bugs Bunny always thwarts him. He is also shown to own a lot of cats at his house.

Yosemite Sam appears in Looney Tunes Cartoons.

Voice actors

Mel Blanc

The role of Yosemite Sam was originated by Warners Bros' principal voice man, Mel Blanc. In his autobiography, Blanc said he had a difficult time coming up with the voice when he played a similar character called Tex on Judy Canova's radio show. He tried giving Sam a small voice but did not feel that it worked. One day, he decided to simply yell at the top of his voice, which was inspired by a fit of road rage he had that day. It fit perfectly with the blustery character but was also a strain on Blanc's throat, thus he always did Yosemite Sam's lines at the end of a recording session so he could rest himself overnight. As he got into his 70s, the voice became too rough on his throat; the role of Sam was taken over by future Looney Tunes voice actor Joe Alaskey in Who Framed Roger Rabbit while Blanc played all his other Looney Tunes roles in the film. This makes Sam one of the few voices created by Blanc to be voiced by someone else during his lifetime. Blanc used the same voice to depict Bob and Doug McKenzie's father (portrayed by Dave Thomas, but dubbed with Blanc's voice) in the film Strange Brew (1983). Blanc voiced the character for the last time in his lifetime in the 1989 TV special Bugs Bunny's Wild World of Sports. Archive recordings of Blanc as Yosemite Sam (along with Sylvester and The Tasmanian Devil) were used in the 1990 pinball game, Bugs Bunny's Birthday Ball (a year after Blanc's death). Archived recordings of Blanc for Yosemite Sam were also used in the 1999 PlayStation video game, Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time (a decade after Blanc's death). Blanc used a voice similar to Yosemite Sam's for Mr. Spacely on The Jetsons.

Others

References

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